Belper Town may have been eliminated from the Derbyshire Senior Cup but they left a positive impression on all those who witnessed this absorbing contest at the Proact Stadium.
The game hinged on two penalty decisions, one in either half, and unfortunately it was the Nailers who lost out on both occasions.
With Colin Marrison, Glyn Cotton and Eric Graves unable to take part, manager Peter Duffield gave a debut to defender Matt Millns and started Aaron Pride on the left of midfield.
The Spireites fielded a blend of youth and experience with Conor Townsend, Mark Randall, Jonathan Wafula, Jack Lester and Jacob Hazel having had first team experience to a greater or lesser degree.
Recent signings Richard Brindley and Armand Gnanduillet were included in Chesterfield’s line up while low admission prices persuaded a decent-sized crowd to come out and watch.
The Nailers made a promising start to the game with Simon Harrison shooting just wide in the third minute. However, Mark Randall’s half-volley fizzed close to Aaron Chapman’s post soon afterwards.
The Spireites seemed unnerved by Belper’s positive approach and conceded the first goal of the evening in the 11th minute when Shaun Tuton turned to volley the ball high into the net after the Chesterfield defenders had failed to clear.
Chris Adam sent a header wide after Jon Froggatt picked him out on the edge of the penalty area in the 15th minute, and Froggatt went very close with a header six minutes later with the ball hitting the top of the bar.
The Nailers let their hosts back into the game when Andy Rushbury, playing against one of his former clubs, handled the ball as he tried to intercept a cross from Richard Brindley.
The referee had little choice but to award a penalty and Mark Randall confidently despatched the ball into the corner.
The Nailers lost their rhythm after this and were fortunate not to concede when first Richard Adams headed the ball into the path of Jack Lester and Shaun Tuton gave the ball away to Armand Gnanduillet. However, both players avoided embarrassment by recovering well and snuffing out the danger.
Tuton put the ball in the Spireites’ net in the 28th minute but the effort was disallowed for offside, then the Nailers fell behind when Armand Gnanduillet struck a fine shot from the edge of the penalty area inside the post after first dispossessing Matt Millns.
Half-time came not a moment too soon for the Nailers, who were beginning to creak a little against the full-time professionals. However, Peter Duffield’s half-time team talk and some subtle tactical changes resulted in an impressive second-half display.
Unfortunately, the half started badly when a lightning three-man break from deep in the Spireites’ half resulted in a whipped in cross by Mark Randall, which was met with a firm header from Jacob Hazel.
Simon Harrison went close with a 45-yard effort as he tried to catch Josh Barrington out of his goal in the 53rd minute, and the Nailers were playing with confidence at this stage.
Steve Warne made things very interesting when he headed a loose ball over everyone and into the net in the 67th minute, and then Belper’s golden opportunity to score an equaliser arrived when Mark Randall impeded Warne as he ran into the box.
Although Simon Harrison hit the spot kick with power, it was a little too close to Josh Barrington, who reacted quickly to punch the ball away.
The miss took the wind out of Belper’s sails in the last 15 minutes, although they still kept pushing forward and making the Spireites’ defenders work hard, but with five minutes on the clock a tired Belper allowed Jonathan Wafula the time and space to head home from a Conor Townsend cross.
Despite the disappointment of defeat, it had been an enjoyable evening all round with Chesterfield FC proving to be excellent hosts at their impressive Proact Stadium.
Chesterfield: Barrington, Brindley, Townsend, Randall, Broadhead, Whittaker, Wafula, Scully (Hewitt 78), Gnanduillet, Lester (Slack 90), Hazel (Bowland 90). Unused subs: Eldridge, Fereday.
Belper Town: Chapman, Wright (Roulston 68), Rushbury, Pride, Millns, Adams, Harrison, Warne, Froggatt (Thomas 61), Tuton (Ward 61), Adam. Unused sub: Godber.
Referee: Ian Smedley (Derbys)